A skilled DUI / DWI defense attorney preparing for trial typically files one or more pretrial motions. One request that may be employed is a motion to suppress statements because of Miranda warning violations.
Anyone who is questioned as a criminal suspect must first be warned of his or her Miranda rights. If a suspected drunk driver is arrested and then questioned without being advised of his or her Miranda rights, any statements made by the driver likely will be suppressed after a successful motion to suppress.
The Miranda warning stems from the historic U.S. Supreme Court Miranda vs. Arizona ruling, which mandated that criminal suspects must be advised of their right against self-incrimination and the right to have an attorney present during questioning. Most police officers issue the following type of warning:
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have an attorney present now and during any future questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you at no cost.
Typically, the central Miranda issue in a driving under the influence arrest is whether the defendant was subject to a custodial interrogation when the incriminating statement was made. Generally, pre-arrest statements are not subject to the Miranda decision. Generally, pre-arrest questions are only investigative in nature and normally occur during relatively brief traffic stops.
Questions such as “Where have you been” “Have you been drinking” “When did you drink” and “How much have you had to drink” are admissible in a DUI / DWI case because they occur before an arrest, therefore before custodial interrogation can take place.
However, statements obtained as a result of an unlawful detention, arrest, or search may be excluded by the court, depending on the circumstances. If the police did not have adequate probable cause in pulling someone over for a DUI, then a driver’s admission that he had had two beers at a party may be excluded.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that traffic stops and investigation questions are appropriate because the stop itself and the investigation are relatively brief. However, if the stop is prolonged without adequate and substantiated reason, then the detention is no longer brief and the statements elicited by the police agency may be ruled involuntary and thus inadmissible.
Many individuals facing a DUI / DWI charge feel that statements they made to police after their arrests mean a sure-fire conviction, but that’s not always true. A lawyer who specializes in drunk driving defense can determine whether statements made to authorities should be suppressed because of Miranda violations.